The Common Good

The Disillusionment of Our Youngest Voters

Young millennials — age 18 to 25 — are more comfortable with an evangelical than Mormon (or atheist or Muslim) president. This, according to part two of the Millennial Values Survey put out by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center.

Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed say they would be comfortable with an evangelical Christian serving as president, while 44 percent would be comfortable with a Mormon.

The numbers line up with those supporting President Barack Obama over Gov. Mitt Romeny at 55 percent to 39 percent — a spread that has actually increased 16 points since March. 

But that won’t necessarily convert into votes. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed are registered to vote, but only half report they are absolutely certain they will cast a vote in November.

The candidates’ religion isn’t the only factor affecting young peoples’ voting patterns. Another issue is a lack of voter engagement in the political process altogether.

“Millennials have a reputation for being the ‘wired’ generation, but when it comes to government, they’re unplugged,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI research director, in the news release Friday. “Across a range of measures, younger millennials indicated that they are disillusioned with the government’s ability to respond to their needs.”

Obama carried the election in 2008 in large part to the youngest voting demographics. But the engagement level of those groups has decreased dramatically since then — among those in favor of both parties. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the rate of under-30 voters — the full spectrum of the millennial generation — watching the news very closely has halved since 2008. When you take into account the full swath of millennials — ages 18-30 — the Pew Research Center found that only 50 percent say they are absolutely certain they are registered to vote, down from 61 percent in 2008.

The disillusionment issue may stem from the voting bloc’s overall perception of the government. From the Millennial Values Survey:

“Overall, younger millennials (age 18-25) exhibit a high degree of pessimism about elected officials, the democratic process, and the government. More than 8-in-10 (81 percent) younger millennials believe that elected officials in Washington lose touch with people pretty quickly, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) agree that we need new people in Washington even if they are not as effective as experienced politicians.”

While the numbers seem to lean in favor of Obama in the upcoming presidential election, mobilizing millennials — or not — could prove to be the difference. 

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. You can follow her on Twitter @Sandi.

Photo: doglikehorse / Shutterstock.com

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